How I got back on heels

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The Porta Venezia metro in Milan has been covered in rainbow paper for four years: it was Mayor Beppe Sala who asked ATM, the local transport company, to stay that way, after an advertisement had colored it of Netflix on the occasion of gay pride. There, and nowhere else, why that is considered the most inclusive district of the city, after being a hospital, then an immigration area from the south and then the center of the Eritrean community.

“I’m a provincial boy,” explains Alberto, 24 years old. “I went to university in London, and I lived there, but I moved to Milan in March because they called me to work in a large fashion company, the dream of all time “. Alberto chooses a house in Porta Venezia. “I’m queer and that was the most queer neighborhood in Milan.” He would never have come there, he explains to me on the phone, because he knows Italy, and he knows that diversity often attracts problems. But on the weekend when he settles into the house, in the evening, he chooses to wear platform shoes, heel 15. He is walking down the stairs with his boyfriend, Mark, 23, who has come to help him from London. He stops, he has a premonition. She asks him: isn’t it an exaggeration that he put me like this? But the indecision lasts a moment and away, two go out. After all, up to that moment, nothing serious has ever happened to Alberto. “Once, in London, I kissed on the street with a boy and a man got annoyed, insulted us and told us to stop, but three girls immediately ran and sent him away,” he says. “I was also amazed by it, then I remembered that at the University there are compulsory courses on racism, the bathrooms are gender neutral and the professors always specify their reference pronoun, that is, if they feel like a man, a woman or something else. For example, I do not identify with any gender ».

It’s two in the morning, Alberto and Mark have left the bar where they spent the evening. They could go straight home, but they plan to take a stroll around the neighborhood. At that point Alberto feels more relieved: it is certainly not London, but perhaps Milan can really be a beautiful and interesting new beginning. “That’s when I feel my neck grabbed from behind. I scream, choke, get knocked down, while another guy pounces on me, but Mark blocks it. We both get beaten, but I get away with it sooner because my attacker tells me to give him my wallet and leaves me on the ground. Mark, on the other hand, is massacred in the face with punches by the other, who keeps saying: I’ll kill you, I’ll kill you. He takes the phone from him. ‘ A boy passes by, doing nothing. “I’m crying, breathing hard, Mark is bleeding, we’re in shock. We are ten meters from Corso Buenos Aires, very busy on Saturday evening, a girl sees us and screams: everyone goes out from a nearby bar. They laugh“.

How do they laugh? «Yes, they look at us and laugh. Actually no, one comes towards me and says: give me the packet of cigarettes ». Alberto and Mark go up to the house. “I called my parents right away. I was scared, I didn’t know what to do, I told him I wanted to leave Milan, I cursed the fact that I had come. They wanted to come right away, but I promised them I would call 112 right away ».

While waiting for the police, Alberto “disguises himself as a hetero”, as he explains to me. “I bit off my semi-permanent nail polish, took off my heels. I wanted to be left alone“. Then the agents arrive, the two go down the street and tell the whole attack: they invite them to go to the emergency room, make a complaint and warn them: “Be careful, the city is big.” What does it mean? “I don’t know what that comment had to do with it, but at the moment I didn’t pay much attention to it. At that point it was 5 o’clock, so we went to sleep and slept hard: we both wanted to forget everything, as if waking up we could tell each other that it had been just a nightmare ». But it really happened, and in the ER, where Mark gets his eyes treated, the report records “assault for robbery.” «On impulse I reply: no, it was a homophobic attack. But the person who gives me the sheet explains to me that it will count to say so in the complaint, not there. I take you at your word ».

Later at the police station, Alberto and Mark are greeted by a female agent, Alberto feels relieved. He tells about all the aggression, about the heels, the strange approach to strangling from behind, the screams “I’ll kill you”, the fact that, if they really wanted to rob them, they could also take his bag and much more. «But when I say that it is a homophobic attack, you immediately say that you have to tell a superior. Who arrives, and as soon as he hears the word “homophobia” he stops me: eh, how do you know … If you have not been insulted before, it is not a homophobic act ».

The policewoman is mortified, she comments: «Excuse me, it is certainly a homophobic act, but that’s how he is …». There too Alberto and Mark are paralyzed and frightened: “I felt intimidated, while he was really terrified: he comes from a country where homosexuality is a crimetherefore he has been subjected to attacks several times and the police always frighten him ».

In the complaint there are other inaccuracies, they will realize later: they are not defined as a couple, but as friends. The description of the attackers, although Alberto said they were Italian, and perhaps a “Latin” one, is reversed: one is “Latin!” and the other “presumably Italian”. And the policewoman, while Alberto asks her if perhaps it is the case that she should take the pepper spray with her, sends him back: «Any advice? I won’t tell you not to put on heels, but well… ».

Mark starts again, Alberto locks himself up at home for three weeks. “I was just going to work, then I was plugged in here with the shutters closed. I was traumatized. Even today, if I return late, I take a taxi and if I hear a noise behind me I turn around immediately ». The commissioner was the biggest disappointment of him. If he were to, he would forgive the two attackers more easily than he. “Maybe they have a difficult life. A person from the institutions, on the other hand, should always welcome you. Yet this is not the case, and homophobia is always denied, as if it were not real. This is also why the bill is needed: to make a cultural change, as long as you don’t mention certain things, they don’t exist “.

And those shoes with a heel of 15? «I have not worn them anymore. But then with my parents we went to London for my graduation, whose ceremony had been postponed for a year due to Covid. And that day I wore those shoes and pants that I had on the night of the attack, on the red carpet and on stage. I am like that, and nobody can erase me ».

PS Last October, many squares in Milan filled up to protest the rejection of the DdlZan, and the Democratic Party wanted to organize the three agora in the city that they want to relaunch that law. Which would serve to stop the story of Alberto from happening again, for example. And the many others that will follow from today, May 17, day against homophobia, on the website of Vanity Fair.
The portal for about ten years homophobia.org records the violence suffered by the LGBTQ + community: the victims are 1,384 but in 2022 they are already 147. In the last month we go to “Claudia, a lesbian, 53 years old already molested several times by her homophobic neighbor, is stopped on the stairs and savagely beaten for no reason », To« Daniele, ambulance of the Compagnia della Misericordia, is induced to retire after various homophobic episodes ». Obviously these are partial testimonies and data that do not take into account all the hidden items.

Source: Vanity Fair

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